“John Toner’s decision to leave his New England neighbors and move Connecticut into the Big East Conference changed UConn Athletics forever. John was a transformational figure on the national collegiate stage, including being a driving force in the late 1970s and early 1980s to add women’s athletics under the NCAA umbrella. Personally, John gave me a great start as head basketball coach at Connecticut and through the years he was always available to me for wise counsel and friendship.”

— Jim Calhoun on John Toner, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 91

“Obviously this is a really sad day for the college community, the University of Connecticut and me personally. I owe a debt of gratitude to John that can never be repaid. We become friends. I looked up to him and admired him and he’ll always have a special place in my heart and in my family’s heart. Everyone in the University of Connecticut, in the state of Connecticut and every single person in amateur sports owes him a debt of gratitude.

“Even more so, the growth of women’s sports in this country can be directly related to the work that John Toner did to help push forward the Title IX bill. So, I just can’t put into words … words at some point lose their factor, their meaning when you’re describing someone who was a giant in the world of amateur sports. My thoughts and prayers are with Claire and the rest of the family.”

— Geno Auriemma on John Toner

Former AD Toner dies at 91

John F. Silver

John Toner, the man who brought UConn to the Big East in 1979 and hired Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun, has died at the age of 91.  

Toner had a distinguished career and was the head football coach for five seasons from 1966 to 1970. He brought varsity women’s athletics to UConn and was a driving force behind the rise of women’s athletics in college.

Toner’s teams won Yankee Conference championships in 1967 and 1970 and had a five-year conference record of 17-6-2. Toner was named Director of Athletics in 1969 and held the position for nearly 20 years, before stepping down in 1987.

Toner made two of the greatest hires in college athletics history within a 12-month span—when he hired Auriemma in the spring of 1985 and Calhoun in the spring of 1986.

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Kevin Ollie to be given Ray Meyer College Coach Of Year Award

UConn men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie will be awarded the Ray Meyer College Coach Of Year Award by the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

According to the UConn press release, “In addition to Ollie, honored at the dinner will be Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell with the Gale Sayers Award, former Miami Dolphins lineman Bob Kuechenburg with The George Connor Award, along with Hall of Fame inductees Dave Diehl, Donovan McNabb, Johnny Musso and Tom Zbikowski from the world of football. From baseball, inductees include Goose Gossage and White Sox legend Minnie Minoso will receive a lifetime achievement award.”

The award is named for Hall of Fame coach Ray Meyer, who coached DePaul for 42 years (1942-84) and compiled a 724-354 career record, still 17th on the all-time NCAA coaching list for total wins. Meyer’s teams won the NIT in 1945 and reached the NCAA Final Four in 1943 and 1979. He was the college coach of George Mikan, who went on to become the first of the great NBA big men. Meyer passed away in 2006.

UConn men: Enoch commits to Huskies

John F. Silver

The UConn men’s basketball team received a commitment from Norwalk, Connecticut forward Steven Enoch on Saturday night.

Enoch is a 6-10 PF who will prep this season at St. Thomas Moore.

Enoch announced the news on twitter:

Enoch is the second member of the 2015 class with Roxbury, Massachusetts point guard Jalen Adams the other.


UConn nixes logo use with Coors Light

UConn has told IMG, a marketing partner that pays the school $8 million per year for its marketing rights, to take down four billboards in Connecticut that feature the UConn logo and a Coors Light bottle (Hartford Courant, Sept. 10).

The billboards, that are located on I-84 and I-91, say the “Huskies love the cold” with a Coors Light bottle and a silver football with the UConn logo on it.

IMG College controls UConn’s marketing rights and has contracted with Coors Light in a college football marketing campaign. IMG has many other colleges in its portfolio. The school is not directly contracting with the Coors Brewing Company.

In statements to the Hartford Courant, Director of Athletics Warde Manuel addressed the arrangement.

“That sponsorship allows for Coors to use licensed trademarks of university athletic programs around the country marketed by IMG — UConn being one such program — in promoting UConn products,” Manuel said.

UConn President Susan Herbst and Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh also released a joint statement on the billboard:

“Whatever the intention was, we believe that these billboards sent the wrong message and are pleased that they are being taken down. Adults are free to drink responsibly, but UConn cannot appear to endorse drinking among our students, particularly if they are under 21.”


Report: Calhoun to join ESPN as an analyst

John F. Silver

Former UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun will join ESPN’s college basketball coverage this season per The Big Lead.

The Hall of Fame coach, who won three national championships at UConn, retired two years ago handing the job over the Kevin Ollie. Calhoun has been a fixture at home games for Huskies the past two years and watched as his successor and former player in Ollie won a national championship this past April

ESPN declined comment to the Big Lead and Calhoun could not be reached for comment.